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April 5, 2021 7:00 pm
Dr. Steve Pettit begins the series entitled “Run the Race,” with a message titled “The Message of Hebrews” from the book of Hebrews.
There are some significant elements in the book of Hebrews. That's actually shrouded in mystery.
It's a mysterious book by what it has to say to us is not only clear, but the value for the Christian today is significant because it was written especially for those who are struggling with their faith and are on the brink of giving up and turning away the book of Hebrews was written for spiritual apathy and it is an antidote for those who were drifting so what is Hebrews though it lifts us up to theological heights and then it hurls us down to practical depths. What we see is the privilege of being a Christian today and the fearful judgment of falling away if you walk away from Jesus Christ with all that is been given to you.
Your judgment on the judgment day will be far greater than those who never had the privilege to hear the gospel today on The Daily Platform. Dr. Steve Pettit, longtime evangelist and now president of Bob Jones University will begin a study series entitled run the race, which is a study of Hebrews 12 let's now listen to today's message were Steve will walk us through an introduction to the book of Hebrews.
Would you please take your Bibles this morning and turn with me to the book of Hebrews Hebrews chapter 1. Our theme this semester is taken out of the 12th chapter of the book of Hebrews and the theme is found in verse one of Hebrews 12 which is entitled run the race, but as we begin, it is very important that we take of just a few moments to establish the overall big picture of the setting in the style of the writing of this magnificent book. The book of Hebrews is obviously a message from God, and there are some significant elements in the book of Hebrews. That's actually shrouded in mystery. It's a mysterious book for number reasons.
First of all, the author is not unknown. We don't know who wrote it where it was written from its location is unknown and the group of believers to whom the letter was written is also unknown, so there is a mystery to the book but the message is not vague at all. It is very clear. One writer said that Hebrews is considered the most extensively developed and logically sustained piece of theological argumentation in the whole of the New Testament. If you ever read the book of Hebrews, you know it's depth in its clarity what it has to say to us is not only clear, but the value for the Christian today is significant because it was written especially for those who are struggling with their faith and are on the brink of giving up and turning away this summer in the evangelical world.
There was a stunning announcement that came from a gentleman named Joshua Harris who is Josh Harris Europe in the Pacific Northwest. He was homeschooled in 1997 at the age of 20 years old. He wrote a bestseller called I kissed dating goodbye. The central thesis of the blog is that Christians have been flirting with disaster by their involvement in the dating culture. It was a bestseller 1.2 million books sold in 2004, he became the lead pastor of a mega church outside of Washington DC in 2015. He left his church and moved to Vancouver British Columbia to get some theological training because he said at the time that he had actually he lived effectively backwards. He had gone into ministry before he received any theological education in 2016, he released a statement in which he apologized to those he described his skirt by the purity, culture, and the approach that was taken and I kissed dating goodbye and this past summer 2019. He announced that he was going through a divorce from his wife and ultimately he announced a divorce from his faith get undergone a massive shift in regard to his faith, he said and I quote the popular phrase for this is deconstruction the biblical phrase is falling away by all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian I am not a Christian, and those who heard his words were absolutely stunned.
The book of Hebrews was written for this kind of an issue and it is an antidote for spiritual apathy and for those who were drifting so let's begin this morning by looking at two very important features in the book of Hebrews. First of all, the setting what was going on during the time of this writing, and secondly, the style, how was it written or what was the writers approach will begin. First of all with the setting. As I previously mentioned, the destination of the letter in its recipients were unknown. Yet, in light of the authors mention in chapter 13 verse 24, of Italy. Some scholars believe it was written to Jewish believers living in Rome now. With this in mind there are some important facts that we can observe about those who receive the letter number one, these believers must've been very well acquainted with the entire Old Testament. I mean, you can't read the book of Hebrews and not see that is filled with Old Testament subjects.
Therefore, the recipients would've understood that, for example, there's there are angels and Moses in the temple, the priesthood, the high priest, even a man named Melchizedek.
The sacrificial system. Old Testament heroes you could say they understood the whole Mosaic covenant that the Jews had lived under since the time of Moses and perhaps this is one of the reasons why the recipients were considered Jewish believers.
Hence the title of the book Hebrews. Secondly, these believers had definitely heard the preaching of the apostles, but they had never seen Jesus look at chapter 2 verses three and four here we can assume that they had heard the apostles. It says, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation, it was declared at first by the Lord. That's Jesus, and it was attested to us by those who heard while God also bore witness by signs, wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. We know, for example, both Peter and Paul died in the city of Rome so there is a very good chance that these believers would have heard both Peter and Paul and would have seen their miraculous power. Number three. Hebrews also implies that the temple will step was still standing in Jerusalem. It's always important to keep some dates in your mind. For example, when the Jesus died one year. We know he was born approximately four BC and the Betty died 30 A.D. Keep that in your mind. When was the Temple destroyed the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. so from that time Jesus died and rose until the destruction of the temple that Jesus prophesied would take place. It was a 40 year. This letter was written sometime in between. Because as we read the book, it is clear that the temple is still standing. Then, number four, these believers had already experienced suffering hardships and persecution from the Roman government where we see that look in chapter 10 and verse 32.
Listen to what the writer says book called remembrance of former days in which after you were illuminated. You endured a great fight of afflictions, partly while you were made a gazing stock quote by reproaches and afflictions and partly why you became companions of them that were so used for.
You had compassion of me in my bonds and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better and enduring substance that what is he saying here is basically writing to these believers who had been persecuted by the Roman government and the city of Rome and when would've that taken place were we don't know exactly but we do know this. Then in the year 49 A.D. the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome and we see this when we read in the book of acts chapter 18 where the apostle Paul meets a couple named Priscilla and Aquila in the city of Corinth and there they already meets them and in acts. It says that that they were in Corinth because Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. In other words, they were driven out by persecution. So the idea is that in in in chapter 10 verse 32. He's writing to these believers who had gone through some persecution for their faith. They were publicly embarrassed and put to shame and also if you were put into prison back in ancient times, the prison did not feed you. You are only fed by people who came and gave you food and if you came to give a prisoner food.
It meant that you identified with that prisoner and so Christians who came to bring other Christians food in prison were actually persecuted for their supporting those prisoners. That's what he's talking about so we know that these believers had experience persecution. Number five, these believers were currently living in a very precarious time. About 15 years had passed since the last persecution, and it was now under the reign of a man named Nero Nero became the Emperor at the age of 17 years old and 54 A.D. Nero was notorious for being a murderer, and on July 18 64 ADR fire erupted in the Circus Maximus in it burned down a good portion of the city.
Nero was accused, forgiven, forgiving order for the fire to be started and so in response.
He accused and blamed the Christians for the fire and the Roman historian to see this gives an account as to what he did Nero to the believers in a book entitled analysts and I quote, consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. We know that they were nailed to crosses, we know that they were sold literally in the skins of animals and dogs came and ate them and so they had undergone bait they they were going to go through this persecution and the point is this Hebrews was written before these events actually had taken place. That's why most people believe that that was written somewhere around 63 to 64 A.D. and then number six in the setting, we read that believers were starting to slip spiritually.
We read in chapter 2 in verse one. Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard listed any time we should let them slip the idea of the word slipping is drifting away is like what happens when a boat is tied to a dock by rope and yet but not on the rope becomes unknowingly loose and the boat starts to drift away, or when a wife is watching her dishes in the kitchen sink in her diamond ring slips off her finger. It drops into the soapy water in the sink and then it sucked away into the drain.
The idea is this, that Jewish Christians were being tempted to fall away, perhaps to slip back into Judaism, especially since the temple was standing and they were being persecuted their life of faith was difficult and therefore the problem is that they could a plasticizer they could fall away from the faith and in every generation.
Every generation there is always the temptation for professing Christians to slip away. How would you know if you're slipping away.
Many of you have grown up, especially in second and third generation Christian families you've known of the Christian faith. All of your life. And now here you are in a Christian college and you're surrounded by it, but though it's around you doesn't mean that is necessarily inside of the in the writer of Hebrews actually and in a couple places gives us evidential signs of when people are slipping. For example, in chapter 10.
He tells them to do some things led us in the nieces. For example, let us draw near with a true heart. How do you know if you're slipping away you stop drawing close to God. Then he says let us hold fast the confession of our faith.
How do you know a person slipping away when they don't want to be publicly identified as a Christian, they have a job they work in a job, but they really don't want it to be known that their Christian and then he says let us stir up one another to love and good works. How do you know that you're slipping when you're really not involved in serving because we are part of the body called the church and where to serve in that church and so we are to be actively engaged in good works. How do you know that you're slipping it says when you neglect the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is when you began to slip away from church were suddenly other things become priorities in your life, and there is no question to me that in my mind that when the great struggles we have, especially within our own student body is the problem of slipping away. We could call it worldliness, we can. You can call it whatever you wanted to call but if slipping is going away.
And the reason why this book was written is to deal with the prevailing danger for Christians to become slack and fall away from the faith.
This book was written as a spiritual antidote to fire us up to bring us back to God. And that leads me to the second thing and that's the style, how was it written well is definitely a letter but it reads more like a sermon.
And in this sermon it's like a to be rhythm of the song because the message has two basic ideas throughout the entire book. And when you read it you can see that it's a back-and-forth kind of thing. The first beat you can say is a lofty exposition of Jesus Christ it's lifting Christ up. The second is a powerful exhortation to believers to be faithful so it's an exposition. Christ being lifted up and it's an exhortation it's a warning to all of us. So it begins with this lofty theological Xmas exposition of the person in the work of Jesus Christ. But at the same time. He compares Christ to the old covenant uses a methodology in his writing that you you become familiar with in Latin.
It's the rhetorical logic known as 14 Youree it means to compare from the lesser to the greater and he does this to enhance the person of Christ, he takes Christ and he shows how much better Christ is to something else and that something else is the old covenant and that's the way he writes the book. For example we see this in the very beginning.
Look at chapter 1 in verse one of Hebrews and notice how he begins God, who at sundry times and divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets. What is he saying here he is saying that the Old Testament was written at certain times and in certain ways by prophets so we have 39 books of the Old Testament written over a period of some 1500 years in different ways in dreams or God speaks directly or through these prophets, God spoke but notice he compares it in verse two to a new day. It says he hath in these last days spoken to us by his son, and Jesus is the ultimate profit the greatest profit, and then he tells us what the sun is like and look at what he says in verse two he says to me at the appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world's who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sin sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, being made so much better than the Angels. What is he do, he lifts Christ up and he tells us he is the create tour. He is the one who is that has the same exact character of God.
He's God himself. He controls all things he cleanses us from our sin. And when you compare Christ to what the old covenant is like, but there's no comparison. And so the exposition of Christ carries what we would say a definite wow that that's the result of any sliding of these people who are about to walk away from Christ and lifts Christ up and he says he's so much greater.
You have to imprint be impressed with who Jesus is and what he is done the wow factor, but then we come to the exhortation sections. There's a lease. Five of them in at the expositional section has the wow factor.
The exhortation will section has the will factor we see in chapter 1 and verse in chapters 1 and two, that Christ, for example, is revealed to be better than the Angels, Christ is better than angels. Then we come to chapter 2 and he makes a stunning application in this and in the idea of a will factor look at chapter 2 and verse one.
Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest any time we should let them slip. Now watch this. For if the word spoken by Angels was steadfast in every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward stop there.
What he said was he talking about on Mount Sinai. God gave the old covenant to Moses.
But it was mediated to Moses through angels because if God gave it to them directly. He would've died. So the whole old covenant. So when we read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the whole old covenant was mediated to Moses through angels and when you read the old covenant if you violated the law. There was very severe punishment.
Okay so you get that and everybody understood that now watch what he says.
How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed on the us by them that heard him. What is he saying here he saying the degree of judgment for disobeying the law is far less than the degree of judgment for those who reject grace in other words, we all think the law is severe, but what the writer of Hebrews is saying is this, that the judgment on people for the rejection of Jesus Christ is far more severe than those who disobey the law.
That's the point that he's making. For example, what did Christ himself say to the cities where he performed his most miracles. What were those cities. Capernaum, Bethsaida coursing they had heard Jesus's words they saw was miracles and Jesus warned them that their condemnation would be Morris on the day of judgment. They make even cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Listen to what he says in Matthew 11 verse 20 then began he to upbraid the cities where in most of his mighty works were done because they repented not wallowing to be. Cora seen woe unto the Bethsaida for the mighty works were done in you had been done entire insight on they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes, but I said to you it shall be more tolerable for Tyre inside on at the day of judgment than for you and Val Capernaum, which are exalted on they have and why because they had Jesus living in Capernaum, the son of God lived there.
Listen to what he says shall be brought down to hell for the mighty works, which have been done at the had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day, but I said to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for the so what we see we see the wow factor. If the unbelieving and disobedient Old Testament believers suffer see her severely for their apostasy. What about us who fall away from Jesus Christ but me to stop you grown up in a Christian home.
You've heard the Bible all of your life.
You know the truth of Scripture, to whom much is given much is what say it required listen to me very carefully. If you walk away from Jesus Christ with all that is been given to you. Your judgment on the judgment day will be far greater than those who never had the privilege to hear the gospel. That's the wow factor. So what is Hebrews though it lifts us up to theological heights and then it hurls us down to practical depths. What we see is the privilege of being a Christian today and the fearful judgment of falling away or falling into apostasy. There is great pressure on all of us today to be apathetic and to be worldly. The Bible warns us that a man was with Paulding Dimas and he forsook Paul because he loved the world. True faith is always faithful. We have to press so we have to be persevering. We have to run the race and that's the challenge of the semester. May we were on the race. Father, we thank you for your word and we thank you for the truth of Hebrews and help us Lord to be faithful to persevere, to continue on in our faith in Jesus name, amen. You been listening to a sermon from Hebrews 12 by Dr. Steve Pettit, president of Bob Jones University. For more information on Dr. Pettit series visitor website. The Daily Platform.com where you can get a copy of Steve study booklet entitled run the race.
The Kindle version is also available. I'm Steve Pettit, president of Bob Jones University and I invite you to join us at our beautiful campus and Bill South Carolina to see how you can be prepared academically and spiritually to serve the Lord through one of our more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs.
For more information about Bob Jones University, visit www.btu.edu or call 800-252-6363 please daily programs are made possible the many friends of Bob Jones University and this radio ministry if you appreciate these programs and benefit from the faithful preaching and teaching of God's word would you consider sending us a special financial gift today. You can easily do that through the website. The Daily Platform.com and then click on the give button on the homepage. Thanks again for listening. Join us again tomorrow as we study God's word together on The Daily Platform